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Google temporarily disables Google Maps live traffic data in Ukraine

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(Last Updated On: February 28, 2022)

Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google confirmed on Sunday it has temporarily disabled for Ukraine some Google Maps tools which provide live information about traffic conditions and how busy different places are, Reuters reported.

The company said it had taken the action of globally disabling the Google Maps traffic layer and live information on how busy places like stores and restaurants are in Ukraine for the safety of local communities in the country, after consulting with sources including regional authorities.

Ukraine is facing attacks from Russian forces who invaded the country on Thursday. As missiles fell on Ukrainian cities, nearly 400,000 civilians, mainly women and children, have fled into neighbouring countries, Reuters reported.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation”.

Big tech companies including Google have said they are taking new measures to protect users’ security in the region.

According to Reuters online services and social media sites have also been tapped by researchers piecing together activity around the war.

A professor at California’s Middlebury Institute of International Studies said Google Maps helped him track a “traffic jam” that was actually Russian movement towards the border hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the attack.

Google said live traffic information remained available to drivers using its turn-by-turn navigation features in the area, read the report.

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Japan launches intel satellite to watch N. Korea, disasters

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(Last Updated On: January 27, 2023)

Japan successfully launched a rocket Thursday carrying a government intelligence-gathering satellite on a mission to watch movements at military sites in North Korea and improve natural disaster response.

The H2A rocket, launched by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., successfully lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan, carrying the IGS-Radar 7 reconnaissance satellite as part of Tokyo’s effort to build up its military capability, citing growing threats in the East Asia, The Associated Press reported. 

The satellite later successfully entered its planned orbit, Mitsubishi Heavy said.

The Intelligence Gathering Satellite can capture images on the ground 24 hours a day and even in severe weather conditions. Japan launched the IGS program after a North Korean missile flyover of Japan in 1988 and aims to set up a network of 10 satellites to spot and provide early warning for possible missile launches. The satellites can be also used for disaster monitoring and response.

“The government will maximize the use of IGS-Radar 7 and other reconnaissance satellites to do the utmost for Japan’s national security and crisis management,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in a statement Thursday as he praised the successful launch.

Kishida’s government in December adopted a new national security strategy, including possessing long-range cruise missiles as a “counterstrike” capability that breaks from the country’s exclusively self-defense-only postwar principle, citing rapid weapons advancement in China and North Korea.

Possible counterstrikes that aim to preempt enemy attacks would require significant advancement in intelligence gathering and cybersecurity capability, as well as significant assistance from Japan’s ally, the United States, experts say.

The Mitsubishi Heavy-operated, liquid-fuel H2A rocket has recorded 40 consecutive successes since a failure in 2003.

Mitsubishi Heavy and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are co-developing their new flagship H3 rocket as the successor to the H2A, which is set to retire in 2024. The first launch of H3 is set for February.

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Asteroid coming exceedingly close to Earth, but will miss us

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(Last Updated On: January 26, 2023)

An asteroid the size of a delivery truck will whip past Earth on Thursday night, one of the closest such encounters ever recorded.

NASA insists it will be a near miss with no chance of the asteroid hitting Earth, The Associated Press reported.

NASA said Wednesday that this newly discovered asteroid will zoom 3,600 kilometers above the southern tip of South America. That’s 10 times closer than the bevy of communication satellites circling overhead.

The closest approach will occur at 7:27 p.m. EST (3:34 p.m Kabul time).

Even if the space rock came a lot closer, scientists said most of it would burn up in the atmosphere, with some of the bigger pieces possibly falling as meteorites.

NASA’s impact hazard assessment system, called Scout, quickly ruled out a strike, said its developer, Davide Farnocchia, an engineer at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“But despite the very few observations, it was nonetheless able to predict that the asteroid would make an extraordinarily close approach with Earth,” Farnocchia said in a statement. “In fact, this is one of the closest approaches by a known near-Earth object ever recorded.”

Discovered Saturday, the asteroid known as 2023 BU is believed to be between 3.5 meters and 8.5 meters) across. It was first spotted by the same amateur astronomer in Crimea, Gennady Borisov, who discovered an interstellar comet in 2019. Within a few days, dozens of observations were made by astronomers around the world, allowing them to refine the asteroid’s orbit.

The asteroid’s path drastically will be altered by Earth’s gravity once it zips by. Instead of circling the sun every 359 days, it will move into an oval orbit lasting 425 days, according to NASA.

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Microsoft Teams and Outlook down for thousands

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(Last Updated On: January 25, 2023)

Thousands of users are struggling to access vital Microsoft services including Outlook and Teams.

Outages have been reported on Downdetector, a website that tracks when other sites aren’t working properly.

Outlook, the email service popular with both individuals and businesses, has gone down, while Teams, the messaging service that’s widely-used in companies, also appears out for several thousand users.

Microsoft is looking into the outage. The Microsoft 365 Twitter account said in a series of tweets: “We’re investigating issues impacting multiple Microsoft 365 services.

“We’ve identified a potential networking issue and are reviewing telemetry to determine the next troubleshooting steps.

“We’ve isolated the problem to networking configuration issues, and we’re analyzing the best mitigation strategy to address these without causing additional impact.”

It added: “We’ve rolled back a network change that we believe is causing impact. We’re monitoring the service as the rollback takes effect.”

Teams is used by more than 280 million people and has only become more prominent since Covid lockdowns confined workers to their homes, while Outlook has previously reported 400 million users.

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